The Compelling Case for Low-Violence-Risk Preclusion in American Prison Policy
This article recommends the development of broad policies of preclusion regarding the use of incarceration for offenders who are highly unlikely to commit a violent crime in the future. The proposal builds on the new Model Penal Code: Sentencing's provision on the limited utilitarian purposes of incarceration. Such low-violence-risk-preclusion strategies (LVRPs) would stand on the most powerful predictive capabilities of today's risk assessment technology. If implemented properly, there is reason to believe that substantial drops in prison rates could be realized in most states. The preclusion groups would include defendants who should not be sent to prison or jail by sentencing judges even though the law allows for such penalties; those serving prison sentences who should be released by parole boards or other releasing authorities at the earliest opportunity; and probation and parole violators who should not be revoked to prison or jail. The strongest objection to the LVRP proposal is the fear of racial or other unacceptable biases in its apportionment of reduced-incarceration benefits. Given current high levels of disproportionality in prison and jail populations, however, there is reason to think that the benefits of LVRP would be especially pronounced in disadvantaged communities.